Council Agrees to ‘Let the Voters Have Their Say’ on Retail Pot in Ouray

08/31/14 | By | 48 More

OURAY – Voters will have a chance to decide this November whether to allow retail marijuana establishments to set up shop within city limits, and whether to charge such business an additional excise tax.

But they will not have a chance to vote on whether to allow cultivation, testing and marijuana product manufacturing facilities to come to town. That’s because the Ouray City Council decided at a work session on Monday, Aug. 25, to preemptively ban such enterprises through a new ordinance with it will introduce next month.

Mayor Pam Larson took the lead in the decision, stating that she felt Ouray did not have the land or the water resources to support such businesses, even in the C-2 zone where retail marijuana stores would be relegated should voters approve the pending ballot question.

“We could determine to send to the voters a retail issue and ban the others by ordinance,” Larson said. The remaining counselors approved of her suggestion. 

The Ouray City Council has a whole new make-up, since council decided last summer to put the retail pot question to the voters this November, in lieu of preemtively banning or permitting the industry through council action. 

At that time, council envisioned three separate ballot questions – one for commercial sales, one for cultivation, testing and manufacturing facilities, and one regarding whether to asses an extra sales tax beyond the city’s 3 percent sales tax on the sale of recreational weed. 

Although there is nothing that binds the current council to following through on the course of action that the previous council envisioned, the majority of current council members – particularly Glenn Boyd and Bette Maurer – felt it was still important to “let the voters have their say.” 

But they drew the line at retail sales, agreeing to draft an ordinance that would ban the other three commercial uses within the city. 

Larson emphasized that council could easily repeal the ordinance down the road, should it determine in the future that grow operations, and testing and manufacturing businesses would not be problematic for the city. 

Through the course of discussion, it became apparent that all five council members, including the newly appointed Dee Hilton and Carl Cockle who will be sworn in next week, were personally opposed to having retail pot in Ouray.

But they agreed in the end that “it is important to let the people have their say.” 

Council also agreed to ask voters to approve a 5 to 10 percent excise tax on retail marijuana sales, should the retail pot question pass. 

Council Hopes Three’s A Charm for De-Brucing Question

Ouray voters will also be asked this November to “De-Bruce” the City of Ouray’s property taxes. The move would bring in over $150,000 in new revenues to city coffers on an annual basis. 

City Clerk Kathy Elmont said she estimates the City has lost over $1 million in potential revenues since 2006 due to voters’ unwillingness in two previous elections to relieve the city’s property taxes from the confines of the Tax Payers Bill of Rights, whose author, Douglas Bruce, inspired the term “de-Brucing”.

Council agreed that the main challenge in getting Ouray voters to pass the de-Brucing question the third time around will be adequately educating them on a very confusing, complicated and polarizing issue. 

Council laid out a plan to start holding meetings with various interest groups in the community, and agreed to invite an expert on the topic to speak in Ouray sometime in the coming month and a half leading up to the election. 

The last time council put a de-Brucing question on the ballot in 2006, it failed by just 6 votes. Almost all other communities in Colorado have already de-Bruced their property taxes.

Ballot language for the two marijuana questions as well as the de-Brucing question, will be nailed down at the Sept. 2 council meeting. 

swright@watchnewspapers.com or Tweet @iamsamwright

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